The Curse of Old McBoaty
By Norton McClure
If I told you that I’d passed my Crimping course at the Academy with the most dazzling display of flying colors you’d ever seen, you probably wouldn’t be very surprised. If I told you that my crimping skills would save Andronica, well, that might be more of a shocker. I try not to brag on myself more than a handful of times per day, but this story is worth the risk of being arrested by the Condescension Police. Stacey John Shmirklemann, also known as John Fireblade, also known as Old McBoaty, also known as the High and Exalted Savior of Andronica (a name I gave myself) was about to redeem the beloved city of Andronica from the curly-horned heads of a demon horde by fully utilizing an extremely obscure skillset.
Full disclosure: I thought I was signing up for a course in Krumping which, at the time, I thought was spelled with a C. My contacts were a little fuzzy during registration so I couldn’t tell the difference. One box to the left and I would’ve accidentally signed up for Cramping which might have resulted in an extremely different outcome to this story.
I’m a licensed, insured, board-certified Master Crimper, as I’m sure you are well-aware. I can crimp all kinds of things: electrical wiring, tin sheets, human hair, other people’s style — you get the idea. Got something that’s flat or straight? John Fireblade can crimp it.
I started a crimping side-hustle a while back while I was still working as a collections agent for Spectroscopy. I called my little business Mister Crimpest, and my signature move was called the Simple Crimple Dimple. So smooth. So perfect.
I subcontracted a lot of work for machinists and hairdressers after hours and on the weekends. It paid well, and that was good because I was trying to save up a little to buy a ring for a very special someone, but those gigs weren’t where the real money was made. The highest paying jobs were tween girl birthday parties and sleepovers. Rich parents would pay a small fortune for that Simple Crimple Dimple. So luxurious. So elegant.
People kept trying to tell me, “John, you can’t hang out at sleepovers. That’s not cool, man,” but I didn’t listen. I would show them the wads of cash I made off those things and they would just walk away in disgust. That’s right. Walk away, jelly bellies.
Anyway, there was a point to this tangent. Not a point like when angry parents jab their index fingers in your face while yelling at you until you to leave their kids’ parties because you stayed way past the makeover portion. It was a point like the first bullet point on a grocery list — everyone knows that’s the most important item on the list, and it’s always cookies. So sugary. So delightful.
The main reason behind all this: I had a plan. I knew how to stop the demon horde from conquering Andronica. I knew a way to stop them in their tracks and send them back to the fiery abyss from whence they came. I, Stacey John Shmirklemann, was going to put a serious crimp in Arzkriel’s plans.
I watched as the demons surged forward onto the beach. The vile, nasty creatures that once were human had been dressed in khakis and cheap polo-style golf shirts of varying pastel colorings. Their short sleeves were too long and hung awkwardly past their elbows, and the cuffs of their khakis were so long that they puddled around their hoofed demon feet. The synthetic fabrics were drenched in Andronican sea water which gave them an extra shiny sheen from all the pollution. There was so much dirty polyester coming up out of the water that I wanted to puke my brains out. Clearly, they had taken on some of their master’s style choices.
I gave myself several objectives as the demons came toward me with their neatly combed hair and cute swishing tails. First, I needed to prevent the horde from going into the city. Once the demons were neutralized, I was going to have to deal with Arzkriel. Third, I needed to find Gerty and make sure she was okay. Fourth, I needed to pick up my new tea set from that paint-your-own-pottery place on Second Avenue. The lady behind the counter had told me that if I bought and painted the whole set, she’d throw in a free tea cozy. I mean, who can resist a free tea cozy?
Suddenly, I was struck with an idea. The driver of a large delivery truck on a nearby highway lost control of their vehicle, left the road, tumbled end-over-end down a hill, rolled onto the beach and smashed right into me in the process. Now, if you’ll remember, I was still a ghost at that point, so it didn’t hurt. As the truck rolled over me, I caught a glimpse of the logo on the side of the truck: a caricature of a handsomely winking man with perfectly combed black hair, white apron and an industrial-strength curling iron in his right hand and a foamy coffee-based drink in his left. It was the Frappy Dapper, my old nemesis.
#(prepare for flashback sequence)#
Before he was known as the Frappy Dapper, Larkin Finkle was my best friend and roommate at the Academy. We didn’t know each other before our Academy days. We first met on the day of Spectroscopitiation — the day when all new mafia candidates are sorted into our houses based on age, gender, wealth and general educational upbringing. Naturally, Larkin and I had so much in common that our friendship was inevitable.
Larkin and I were the bestest of best friends. We did everything together. We liked the same sports teams, food, movies, wing sauce and knitting needle gauges. Larkin and I assassinated political figures together, stole from rival mafia clans together and even fomented insurrection in several foreign governments together — all from the safety and comfort of our yellow tandem bicycle, Reginald. We finished each other’s sentences and executions. When my assault rifle ran out of ammo, Larkin was right there with a fresh magazine and a high five.
One day, just like the “put bacon in your dessert” fad, the good things about our friendship started to diminish. I noticed that Larkin started dressing like me and cutting his hair like me. When I pierced my right ear and hung a dangly gold tassel from the stud, Larkin did the same with his left ear. When I got a bee sting on my right eyelid, he thought I was blind, so he gouged out his own eye and started wearing an eyepatch. He was getting more and more obsessed with me every day. Suddenly, knowing that he was standing in my room watching me sleep at night wasn’t as flattering as it used to be.
Larkin snapped the day I signed up for Crimping. He was late for signups, and he missed the cutoff for the class because of the high demand. Something about being waitlisted messed his brain up. In a fit of rage, he signed up for Curling (no, not the sport) instead. Soon, all the posters of me in his room were replaced with salon stock photos of curly heads of hair. We slowly stopped speaking to each other altogether, and then one day, he was just gone. His room was empty, the crocheted blankets he cuddled with were missing and our tandem bicycle had been sold. I didn’t see or hear from him for many long years.
The next time I saw Larkin was the day I was fired from a quinceañera I was working. Apparently, the quinceañera-zilla didn’t like my crimps, and so her father politely apologized and ushered me out the door. On my way out, I noticed a white, windowless van pulling up to the place, and out of that van came Larkin Finkle. He was wearing a form-fitting black leather jumpsuit and had a tool bag in one hand and a tray of freshly prepared iced coffee drinks in the other. He only briefly made eye contact and smirked without turning his head to me as he brushed past.
“Larkin!” I cried out to him happily and opened my arms for a hug. “My old friend!”
Larkin ignored me and proceeded into the quinceañera.
“Larkin?” I called. “Buddy?”
As I walked out toward his van, I read the logo on the side. It read, “The Frappy Dapper Coffee and Hairstyle Service.” Realization hit me like a hotdog-water-filled water balloon: Mister Crimpest had been replaced with someone new. I had competition, and I didn’t like it. So competitional. So rivalrous.
Over the next few months, my crimping jobs dwindled. More and more tweens were slamming their doors on me. I tried offering snacks and drinks of my own, but I couldn’t sell Mister Crimpest Crispitos the way Larkin could sell coffee. I even used my family’s old secret recipe of goat curd and mayonnaise. People kept telling me that it was “just wrong,” but I didn’t care. I thought they were delicious. In the end, I just couldn’t compete with Larkin’s stylish curls and his foamy lattes. So rich. So frothy.
Eventually, I admitted defeat. I went home and retired my neon unitard to the confines of a trunk in my closet. I took my prized crimping iron, a Crimple-ator 4300 Platinum Turbo Edition, and placed it in a locked safe in my basement. I hadn’t thought about either one of those things until Larkin hit me with his truck.
#(flashforward from the flashback)#
Seeing Larkin’s truck tumble past me on the beach gave me an idea. I needed to stop the demon horde, and those super smooth iced coffees and curls might be just the trick. If I could convince Larkin to help me by distracting the demons with caffeine-fueled makeovers, it might give me the edge I needed.
When the van came to a stop, I ran to the side and threw open the door.
“Larkin,” I cried, “Larkin, are you there?”
A hiss came out of the driver’s seat as a man who looked like he was dressed for the apocalypse stepped out and faced me. He had on black leather pants, a black leather vest and a gold chain around his neck that read “tuff-stuff.” It was Larkin Finkle exactly as I remembered him, even down to the bedazzled eyepatch covering his right eye.
“Larkin, it’s me,” I pleaded with him.
“I know who you are, McBoaty,” he said with the grizzled voice of a man who’d eaten nothing but plain grits for breakfast his entire life. “Now, stay back or I’ll use these!” His hands drifted to the holsters on his sides, each one carrying the fanciest curling irons I’d ever seen. I shuddered at the sight of them.
“There’s no need for that,” I begged him. I reached up and removed the old tattered tricorne from my head. “Larkin, it’s me. It’s John. I need your help.”
His one good eye went wide and then back hard again.
“You can’t be John,” he said. “John Fireblade is dead.”
“Look at me, my friend,” I said. “I’m not dead! I’m here now, and I need your help.”
“John Fireblade betrayed me,” he told me as one curling iron found its way into his right hand. “If you’re him, then we’ve got a score to settle.”
“No,” I continued, “we don’t. We were friends once, don’t you remember? We can be friends again! Help me deal with these demons, Larkin!”
“Stop calling me Larkin! I AM THE DAPPER, THE FRAPPY DAPPER!”
Suddenly, a dozen demons rounded the truck behind him and were reaching for him. Their teeth gnashed and their tails swished. I had to think quickly.
“Ahoy there, demons! There be a sale on pleated khakis back down the beach a-ways! Practically free!” I said in my bestest pirate dialect.
The trick worked. The demons looked at each other, and then down at their pants before turning away and sprinting like a pack of wolves down the beach.
“I know that move,” Larkin said as he replaced the curling iron. “Only one person I know could’ve outwitted such a ravenous pack as that. It is you, isn’t it?”
“My brother,” I said, “it is me!”
Larkin dropped his gaze to the ground before speaking, “I can’t help you. You betrayed me.”
“Betrayed YOU?!” I roared. “YOU are the one who ran me out of business! You sold our yellow tandem bicycle, Reginald! You were the one who walked out on me!”
“I had to,” he yelled. “You took crimping without me! What was I supposed to do? Play second fiddle to your new best friends in the beauty school?”
“Larkin, you know it wasn’t like that,” I said. “Crimping was a happy accident, but I never did it to spite you! You were, and still are, my friend.”
I held up my right hand and waited. A moment later, Larkin met my hand with a high five of such force that the moon winked out of existence for a moment and the power grid of Andronica fluctuated. The ground rumbled and the air quivered. So thunderous. So dangerous.
“What do you wanna do, Fireblade?” he asked me.
“Let’s run a bait-and-switch followed by a three-quarter al fresco martini and finish up with a bumbum-stomper,” I told him using the coded verbage we’d used at the Academy.
“But that means…”
“I know what it means,” I interrupted, “but there isn’t time.
“You’ll lose your iron!” he said urgently.
“I lost that iron a long time ago,” I said with my head down, “the day I lost you as a friend. I need your help. Will you help me?”
Larkin thought for a moment before replying, “Aye, matey. I will.”
I activated my ghost-mode and flew away from the beach as fast as I could. Behind me, The Frappy Dapper was in his peak performance zone. He’d initiated Exuberance: the codename for the routine he was about to perform. I’d recognize those throbbing beats anywhere. The flashing lights and music coming from his truck were fading as I few away. I knew he was doing his best to put on a show for the horde, and if his moves were as good as they were when took Semiaquatic Rasputian Burlesque at the Academy, his leather-and-eyepatched self would keep the demons busy for a few minutes while I was away.
I flew as fast as my ethereal tail would permit and arrived at my old house moments later. I vanished through the front door without even opening it and headed to the safe in my basement. The safe was old, rusted and covered in dust. With a mighty gust from my undead lungs, I blew the aged dirt and grime away until it hung in the air like a thick fog.
When the dust was gone, a small numeric keypad glowed faintly in the center of the safe. I knew the combination, it was a number I’d never forget. It was the date of the first time Gerty and I tried wringing oil out of all the local snakes so that we could be legitimate snake oil salespeople. I’ll never forget the satisfied look on her face as we stretched and pulled those poor creatures. Oh how they squealed! So slimy. So lucrative.
I entered the code and the door hissed, creaked and popped open. There it was: The Crimple-ator 4300 Platinum Turbo Edition buried underneath my collection of free trial discs that offered forty free hours of CompuNet on each one. I’d spent months scouring the city and stalking the mail delivery people to gather those discs. I mean, if each disc gave me forty hours of dial-up internet for free, I had it made in the shade. And since CD’s weren’t ever going out of style, I was never going to pay for internet. Eat that, jello-fellows.
I gathered up the Crimple-ator and flew back to the beach. Apparently, the demons had tired of the Frappy Dapper’s dance show and he had set up his curling studio right there on the sand. There was a long line of demons sipping on iced coffee and waiting for their turn in the curling chair. I noticed quite a few of them sporting brand-new pairs of pleated khakis, and I smiled to myself.
When Larkin saw me land on the beach, I gave him a wink and he gave me a nod.
“I’m sorry, fiends and foes,” Larkin boomed, “but my curling iron has died. Fear not, however, for the stylings of Mister Crimpest have arrived!”
The demons turned to me and scowled. Clearly, they had their hopes set on getting curls and not crimps. I was going to have to incentivize them to win them all over.
“My good demons,” I said politely, “I’m here to offer you my once-in-a-lifetime chance of receiving the Simple Crimple Dimple for FREE! To make it even better, when you invade Andronica and tell people where you got your crimps, I’ll give you one more crimping session for free for every person you refer to me.”
That got them. Free hairstyling from Mister Crimpest, and the prospect of continued free crimps had won them over. No one can resist the Simple Crimple Dimple for long. I looked around for Arzkriel, but I couldn’t see him. I didn’t know where he was or what he was doing, but if I could take out his horde now, I wasn’t going to miss my chance.
“All you have to do is get back in the water and get wet,” I smiled cheerfully.
The thousands of demons all nodded in agreement and staggered back into the sea. My moment had arrived. It was time to send them back to wherever they’d come from.
In my left hand I held the Crimple-ator. I dialed its heat setting all the way up to the “don’t be a fool” mark: the one setting I’d never used before because it also came with a hazardous radiation warning. The minimum safe distance warning for the Crimple-ator under normal circumstances was one mile, but this setting had no minimum safe distance. Once I activated it, the inside of the iron would undergo a nuclear reaction that I wouldn’t be able to stop. All I had to do was give it enough juice to kick start the reaction.
I drew Hizrathophel from its scabbard and held it on high in my right hand. In my left I began swinging the Crimple-ator from its extension cord like a lasso.
“Old McBoaty had a farm…” I began to sing. By the time I was done with the verse, a bolt of lightning so huge that it tore the sky apart stuck me. The energy passed through the sword, down my arms and into the crimping iron. I let go of the Crimple-ator and sent it flying into the Sea of Andronica.
Somewhere under the sea, a small star was born. The light was so bright and intense that it would’ve blinded me if I weren’t a ghost. The heat and energy boiled the sea and the demons were all burned to a crispy crisp. So crunchy. So flaky.
When the horde had crumbled back into the sea, I turned to Larkin. He had collapsed by his truck and was lying still on the sand. I ran to him and scooped him up into my arms.
“Larkin!” I shouted, but he gave no response. “My brother!”
“No,” coughed Larkin weakly. His one good eye couldn’t open anymore, and his voice was low. “We’re not brothers. Not anymore.”
“But why, Larkin?” I pleaded. “We saved the city! You saved it!”
“I’m dying, Fireblade,” he struggled to say. “Before I go, I need to give you something. Reach into my vest. No, not that side. The other side. A little lower. Yep, there it is.”
I pulled out a folded piece of paper from a sweaty pocket inside his leather vest. When I unfolded it and read it, my eyes went wide and I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
“Not brothers,” he said again. “You’re… my… son…”
Larkin closed his eyes and breathed his last. The papers he’d given me were adoption papers. He’d adopted me years ago, but I never knew it. Despite us being the same age, he was my adoptive father and guardian. The papers were legal and legitimate.
“Father!” I yelled, but he couldn’t hear me. “No! Please, don’t go!”
Sorrow welled up inside me like a frozen turkey that’s dropped into an oil fryer. I’d lost my friend and my father all in the same moment. I vowed then and there to erect a statue of him wearing his famous Frappy Dapper leather vest and pants and place it on the beach to ward off evil.
Sorrow and mourning would have to wait, however, because Arzkriel was still nowhere to be seen. I waded through the crumbling demon remains that were washing up on the beach, but his ugly mug wasn’t there.
Suddenly, screams erupted from the city behind me. But not the good kind of screams like when you’re favorite knitting notions go on sale at the local Yarnoloplis Emporium. You probably didn’t know they were called notions, did you? I did. I’m also a board-certified Haberdasher, but that’s a story for another time. No, these were the screams of innocent hipsters and other general ne’er-do-wells who were obviously terrified. I could only think of one thing beside the concept of accepting responsibility that would make people like that scream: Arzkriel, King of Demons.
It didn’t take long for me to find him. Arzkriel was in the city park causing people to flee from him left and right. The sun was rising on the eastern horizon, and it gave the park a glow of terror and mayhem that in other circumstances would’ve been beautiful. The park used to be the city landfill that was in the center of town, and those of us in the mafia business would hide bodies there on a regular basis. Environmentalists had used laser technology to turn it into a park overnight, and then used the lasers as planters for their non-GMO, organic, free-range, environmentally friendly recycled fruits and vegetables. What’s a recycled fruit, you ask? Just think about it, you’ll get it. So chewy. So aromatic.
The first thing I noticed about the King of Demons was the worst part: he was holding a hostage in his long claw-like fingers. I knew who it was before I even landed in the park. It was my Gerty. She was still wearing the flower crown she’d made the day before and was crying for help.
“Help me, Old McBoaty!” she cried with one arm dramatically flung over her forehead and the other clutching her prego mommy-tummy. Gerty was carrying my pirate twins, if you’ll remember, and I wasn’t about to let anything happen to any of them.
Rage fueled my anger and hatred of Arzkriel and made me fly faster than I’d ever flewn before. Flewn. Flowen? Flied? Flown. That’s it, flown. When my speeds broke the sound barrier, my ghostly tail created a sonic boom that sounded something akin to a backfiring car mixed with orangutan flatulence, you know the sound.
I landed in the park and stuck the traditional superhero pose: semi-crouched with one knee on the ground and the opposite side hand extended behind me. The landing made a crater so large that it peeled back several layers of dirt and revealed the landfill that once dominated the area underneath the park. You could practically feel the radioactive material bleeding through to the surface. So dizzying. So gratifying.
Also, in traditional superhero fashion, I landed entirely too far away. Arzkriel was yelling something at me, but I honestly couldn’t hear him. He was so tiny and cute off in the distance, I almost lost my focus. I mean, his little tail was swishing around and stuff! You should’ve seen it.
“Whhff fff hhhhffff fffhh hfh wwww!?” he yelled.
“What?” I called back as I began my dramatic, slow-motion march toward him.
“Whhhff fff hhhh fooo hannaaha?”
“What?” I still couldn’t understand the guy, and I was starting to think that maybe landing closer to them would’ve been more prudent.
“WHHYY. DIIIID. YOOUUU. LAAAAND. SOOO. FAAARR. AWAAAYY?” I was close enough to understand him now.
Tiring of the dramatic walk, I broke into a light jog. It still took over a minute to reach them by which time he’d just sat down on the grass and tied Gerty up to a nearby tree.
“It’s over, demon!” I pronounced defiantly as I approached. I struck a pose and let the cool morning breeze ruffle my hair and tattered pirate cloak. I was the embodiment of all the harlequin book covers I’d ever seen combined. I’d practiced this pose for hours in a “So, You Want Your Image in a Grocery Store?” seminar I attended one time, and I was pretty good at it. I could hear Gerty swooning at the sight of me and my chest hairs poking through the gap in my ruffly shirt.
As Arzkriel stood up to his full height and produced a flaming sword from nowhere, I took a moment to reflect on the situation and how to best defeat this monster. I realized at that moment that I knew nothing about real demons. The ones on the beach I’d defeated were only demonized humans, and that’s not the same thing. This was a full-fledged, horribly-dressed, horn-headed demon from the depths of… well, I don’t know where he’s from, but it ain’t Andronica.
I didn’t have much time to reflect before the King of Demons pounced on me. It was clear from the beginning that he knew how to handle a sword. Betty and I dueled the creature with a ferocity that’d make you wish you were wearing diapers. Not the kind of diapers that you wear when you can’t hold it while you’re driving across the country to be the first person in line to buy the new Andronican Girl Doll of the Year. Last year, it was Harriet who came with a backpack full of school supplies! They even made a tiny protractor for her tiny doll hands! So adorable. So collectable.
Then, I noticed his pants. He wasn’t wearing the pleated khakis like his minions were. He was wearing plaid polyester golf pants, and if there’s one thing I know about polyester pants, it’s that they’ll melt to your skin if you try to set it on fire. His sword was made of fire. I needed him to get his sword close to his pants! That was the key to victory! I decided to try talking.
“Arzkriel, King of Demons,” I began but I had a frog in my throat, “bolth of us know how this is going to end. Give up!” I coughed and cleared my throat.
Arzkriel cringed slightly at my taunting, but I didn’t know why.
“Gahh,” he spat, “did you say bolth? I hate that! It’s not a word! Say, BOTH like a normal person, okay?”
There it was: his tell. He’d slipped up and showed me the key to victory. Arzkriel was a logophile, and I was going to use his annoying arrogance against him. I quickly had to think of all the irritating non-words I could remember.
“My sincerest apologies,” I mocked. “Wah-la! I’ll never say bolth again.”
“It’s voila! It’s French, you uncultured donkey’s…”
“Enough!” I interrupted. “I’m going to warsh your stanch from this land and send you back to the chasm you crawled out of!” I pronounced chasm with the “ch” sound instead of a hard c sound. His rage was boiling over at that point, but he hadn’t yet lowered his sword to the unnatural fabrics of his clothing.
“Why can’t you speak normally?” He demanded as he pointed the sword at me. “WASH. STENCH. CHASM. These are normal words!”
“Cryschal,” I continued rapid fire, “athalete, baggle, gif, acaí, mischievious, affidavid!”
Arzkriel was shaking violently all over. He held the sword close, but not close enough. I needed one more word to send him over the edge. One word that’s hated more than any other. I knew exactly what I’d say. I stared into his horribly attractive blue eyes with his big curly lashes and indescribably magical twinkle and let loose the one word that I wouldn’t even have to try to mispronounce. One word that carries so much hatred and animosity with it because no one can pronounce it correctly.
“Rural,” I said steadily.
The demon lowered his arms and let out a roar that would’ve shaken me to my core if it weren’t for the aroma his melting pants were giving off. It wasn’t a good kind of aroma like when you go to a cheese sampling party and put most of it in your cargo pockets to save for later and then forget about it until your pants come back out of the dryer. It was the smell of melting synthetic fabric and burning demon hide.
He was so angry with that last word that he didn’t even notice his legs were being melted together until he tried to move. His roar of malice transformed into a scream of pain. I hadn’t heard a scream like that since little Nancy Rae asked if she could borrow my Harriet doll. I gave her a box of reanimated beef hearts instead.
Arzkriel toppled over and I used Betty to remove his arms from his body and flip them away the way a hibachi chef tosses shrimp at people that aren’t ready for it. Once more, I held Hizrathophel on high and recited the magical incantation that would banish the armless demon from this plane of existence.
“Old McBoaty had a farm, E-I-E-I-Oooooo!” I sang loudly and cheerfully as the lightning smote Arzkriel. When the dust and debris settled, the King of Demons was nowhere to be seen.
I untied Gerty from the tree and she fell into my arms. The morning sun was hot on our backs as we embraced, but never was there a more joyful feeling than to have her back in my arms again. She was everything that my undead soul yearned for: hair like an autumn wheat field and ankles like crescent rolls. She was perfect in every way.
“McBoaty?” she said shyly.
“My love, what is it?”
“We need to talk about something,” she said. She held up her left hand and showed me the gleaming ring on her finger, but it wasn’t the ring I’d given her.
“What is that?” I demanded.
“While you were away,” she said, “fighting my first husband in the cemetery, I met someone. We fell in love!”
“What? I was gone for like an hour, two at the most!”
“We’re in love, McBoaty!” she pleaded with those big, droopy eyes of hers. “He proposed to me, and we were married on the spot!”
“No!” I yelled. “That can’t be true!”
“But,” she said, “it is true! And I love him!”
“Who is it? I have a right to know,” I demanded.
“You don’t know him,” she said. “His name is Larkin. Larkin Finkle, the Frappy Dapper. He reminds me so much of my first husband, John.”
My brain was spinning inside my ethereal head. Gerty, who was still technically married to me, John Fireblade, had fallen in love with Old McBoaty, also me, and was pregnant with my pirate twins. Then, she’d fallen in love and married Larkin Finkle, my best friend, while still technically married to me. Larkin adopted me, becoming my father. That makes Gertrudinnia… oh no… oh please no…
“Gertrudinnia,” I said as I removed my ghostly pirate tricorne, “I am John Fireblade.”
“What?” she gasped.
“I am also Old McBoaty,” I confessed. “It’s time travel — it’s weird.”
“That can’t be!”
“Larkin was my best friend,” I continued, “and he adopted me as his son before… before… he died trying to save Andronica.” Technically, I think he died when I caused a thermonuclear explosion under the Andronican Sea, but I decided to omit that detail.
Gerty swooned again and collapsed into my extremely brawny, well-toned arms. I scooped her up and used my ghost powers to fly her back to her house where I laid her in bed and covered her up. I couldn’t blame her for passing out. She’d been through a lot, but I knew Gerty. I knew she’d pull through in the end. Where she and I would stand in that end, I couldn’t yet say. Time would tell.
A sudden tremble ran through the house and the walls shook violently. Gerty’s self-portraits of her dressed as a steampunk sad clown fell off the walls and clattered to the floor. The quake was followed by a deafening roar from somewhere far away. I floated outside and looked into the distance. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of the Sea.
On the edge of the horizon, a long, serpentine, majestic creature rose from the water and towered into the sky. It was miles out into the water and had clearly grown since I last saw it, but I knew what it was in an instant: the Andronican Leviathan. Its scales shimmered in the distance and reflected morning sunlight the way babies poop on you in mid-diaper-change: vengefully and completely unpredictably. Its beady eyes turned in my direction, and even at such a great distance, I knew it was looking right at me.
“MCBOATY!” It roared and began to charge toward the city.
I floated there above Gerty’s house as the beast came toward me. I drew Betty once more from her scabbard and prepared to defend what I loved. I took a moment to strike another dramatic pose in front of the sun that was rising behind me just in case anyone was looking or taking pictures, and then I flew off to meet the Leviathan.
END OF PART 2
About the Author:
Norton is a lifelong fan of action, adventure and science fiction. He currently lives in northern Alabama with his wonderful wife, two amazing daughters, and one stinky fur ball named Oliver Twist. He works as an analytical chemist by trade and is an independently published author. His debut novel, The Phobos Resurrection, is available now exclusively on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle ebook formats.
You can follow Norton on Facebook and Instagram @nortonmcclurebooks, and on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07WZVM6BK